Trip to Mars

6 New Cartoons

The drawings are done using a simple android pre-installed phone application. The number of colors is limited and the colors can’t be mixed: red, yellow, orange, blue, green, purple, black, and grey. White can be achieved by leaving an area blank or using the eraser. Some variation in color and shading can be achieved using the gallery editor. The cartoons are drawn using fingers and thumbs and a disc stylus touch screen device pen. The font sizes are limited to four dots, each about twice as big as another beginning with a small dot like a period. See more drawings and cartoons on the Comics page. Also on Instagram.

American Gothic

Riding the Tide of Time

I kicked my separation bonus from Minerva over to Cagetan, enabling him to make some repairs on his van, and we planned to hook up in a few weeks down in San Diego for a trip farther south into the Baja Peninsula. In the meantime, I purchased a 1972 Piaggio Vespa Super 150, and set out for a slow cruise down Highway 1, through the beach cities along the coast. I would spend a few nights at the Moro primitive campground at Crystal Cove, between Corona Del Mar and Laguna. I wasn’t sure what year yet. The Piaggio came equipped with a Time Machine. I could move back and forth in time, though not, of course, farther than the present. Like the movement of the tides, rising and falling under the influence of the moon and other gravitational energies, the Piaggio Time Machine came with a tidal time range. I could move back in time, but only to about 1960, at which point the scooter started to overheat. I could move forward in time, but only to the present time I had exited to move backward. And I could only time travel at dawn or dusk, during the Terminator – the grey line, the Twilight Zone. Any trip in time occured like a dream. I could travel years in seconds, but once landing, the material reality was diffused, poured out in a fuzzy, bent light, a narrative broken and full of surreal images like those sometimes appearing in the desert or over the ocean in an early morning or evening, a pause in the character of the light and air. I had not gone far when I decided to stop at the Pike Amusement Zone in 1963 Long Beach, where I parked and walked down to check out the roller coaster.

“Riding the Tide of Time” is episode 44 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Conversation with Minerva

Across the hidden room (no longer secret now that I and Zoeasta had broken the code) the back door opened onto a giant spider web blocking a small opening in the annulus surrounding a wellbore encased with cement. I had wondered about the absence of spiders as I had worked my way from the basement under Hotel Julian through the tunnel and into the underground room. A few webs I had seen, hanging like frayed tapestries depicting the scene of some ancient battle or site of seduction. But I have no fear of spiders (snakes, yes, but not spiders), and I quickly swept the web away from the door, careful not to harm the spider’s anchor thread, the easier for her to weave a new web. A ladder affixed to the inside of the vertical well shaft invited further exploration. But what to do with Zoeasta? She rubbed against my leg, arching her back, and rubbed her head on my calf, telling me something in cat speak. I could see rays of light at the top of the shaft. I dropped a rock, and several seconds later heard a splash. I could leave Zoeasta in the room and hope she made it back to her kittens, or carry her up the ladder with me. Either way, she probably knew her way back to her litter in the basement of the hotel better than I did. I decided to carry her up the ladder with me, thinking the tunnel into the hidden room might be too dark to navigate even for a cat. Once out of the well, I would hurry her back to the hotel and her kittens. We began our climb. I counted 40 rungs on the fixed steel ladder, about 10 inches on center. At the top, we climbed out of the well shaft into an elaborate wishing well cover, complete with spindle wound with rope from which hung a wooden bucket under a shingle hip roof held up by wooden beams sided half way up with horizontal, painted slats. On one side was a hinged gate. I opened it, stepped out, Zoeasta still in my arms, and was flabbergasted to suddenly notice an old woman, sitting apparently nude in a forest green Adirondack chair, knitting a long narrow tapestry that rolled across a yard of bermuda grass. I was standing in the backyard of a house, presumably across the street from Hotel Julian. The old woman had stopped her weaving or knitting and was staring at me, bemused, while I gazed back at her, bewildered. Disoriented, I absentmindedly let go of Zoeasta, who dashed across a grassy space and out of the yard. You found Zoeasta, I see, the old lady quipped, and she’s had her kittens, I see. Oh, my. Down below are they? Oh, my. I can see you’ve had quite the adventure, Glaucus. Hand me my robe there, on that side table. I’m just sunning, you know, getting my daily dose of vitamin D. I hope you don’t mind. Sorry if I startled you. What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue? Oh, don’t worry about Zoeasta, she’ll find her way back to her kitties. She visits us everyday, and she crosses the street to the hotel very cautiously. Smart cat, that one. Oh, yes, I know who you are, Glaucus. You’re staying at the hotel these days, and have even taken on some part time work there, though I’m damned if I can understand why. Yes, I see everything that goes on at the hotel. And you should be out adventuring, exploring the real world, not hiding out in these secret dream rooms buried beneath childhood’s ruins. What are you doing, anyway? Why have you so disappointed? What a waste, what a waste you are, Glaucus. And what have you done with Sylvie? Abandoned her for some flower girl? Though I rather like Florence. She’s had a hard go of life, so far. But I don’t see how you can be of any help. But we’ll see, we’ll see. How many kittens, by the way, in Zoeasta’s litter? Still 5, I hope.

“Minerva” is episode 32 of Inventories
a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)

Note: With episode 30, the title of the novel was changed
from the original working title of “Ball Lightning” to Inventories.

In Storage

The blueprints I had found showed the basement of Hotel Julian was not quite 100% of the building’s footprint. A small square area under what was now the grocery, at the back of the basement storage and supply room, was apparently, and inexplicably, walled off. I tunneled back through the storage room boxes, stacked haphazardly. The farther back I worked, the harder it was to move around, stuff packed floor to ceiling and wall to wall, a hoarder’s dream. I found old light fixtures, cords ropes and wire coils, used furniture, a sofa, a loveseat, broken chairs, mirrors, doors their hardware removed, wood boxes and crates of handles, screws, nails, hand tools. Bits of screen and window pieces, moldings. A box of electrical circuit fuses. Three detached porcelain wall urinals, the size that rose from the floor to your face, a little kid would be afraid of falling into. A workbench buried under empty picture frames myriad styles and sizes. No one had been through this stuff in ages. Past the space utilized for current housekeeping needs – the storeroom area devoted to supply shelves and boxes of toilet and tissue and wrapping paper, cleaning supplies of soaps and bleach and buckets and brushes and brooms and mops and rags, spare light bulbs, bedding sheets and blankets and pillows, vacuum machines, squeegees, hand tools for routine repair jobs, most of which was well organized, new and fresh, rotated and restocked regularly – behind the currently used and useful, in the cavernous dark depth behind the contemporary storage and supplies, I found a kind of spillage zone, where items cut out of use or broken were dropped off probably with temporary intent but that never got moved again but were pushed back or buried under more throwaway and discarded stuff, stuff judged not yet ready for the dump, stuff that someone felt or thought would be used again, fixed, or possibly sold or traded on some future occasion. But it never happened, that future basement sale, that repair job, that trade, over and over again, yet the stuff continued to pile up, and most of it was probably never even seen again, the farther back I crawled and squeezed my way through, in places the stuff stacked floor to ceiling, the ceiling bulbs now burnt out, never replaced, so that I had to retreat back through my mole’s tunnel and find a flashlight before burrowing on any farther.

“In Storage” is episode 30 of Inventories
a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)

Note: With episode 30, the title of the novel has been changed
from the original working title of “Ball Lightning” to Inventories.

Laurel Canyon Law Library

Lugubrious leather and hardback bound big heavy law books, collections and sets: cases, opinions, decisions, appeals, precedent, jurisdiction, tax, rules of court, forms, procedure, briefs, dictionaries, superseded, encyclopedias, treatises, history, code, session, agreements, administrative, legislative statute, regulatory, indexes, standards, reviews, reports, notes, bound journals, bulging 3 ring binders, looseleaf bins, oral argument, digests, local codes and ordinances, restatements, unpublished cases. Looking around, I thought it probable Cajetan had underbid his first contract job as sole proprietor of the Right On Moving Company. We were to move the private law library of one, Harry D. Luxe, from his home office up in Laurel Canyon down to his law firm office digs on Wilshire Boulevard. And we were to do this lifting and carrying in hands and arms each weighty and valuable tome down a flight of forty winding stone steps to Cajetan’s new van, a 1972 standard cargo Ford Econoline, that, on the way up to the canyon from San Pedro, had smoked, belched, rattled, stalled, incurred a bald tire blowout, and required two gas station stops to refill the overheating radiator with water, all the while Cajetan slip clutch driving stop to stop to conserve what remained of the dangerously thin squealing brake pads. Once we got the van loaded, it would be about a 5 mile drive out of the canyon down to Hollywood Boulevard and over to Fairfax then down to the Miracle Mile. Down there, you can see it from here, Cajetan pointed from the porch of the Laurel Canyon house, which richly afforded a view down the hills into the Los Angeles basin, where the morning fog was now rising like cakelike smog. Not far at all, Cajetan said. Should be able to get this job done in 9 trips, he predicted, predicated on what analysis I had no idea, but I happily picked up a couple of books, one under each arm, and started my first descent of the day down the twisting stairway of stone steps to the waiting van, vaguely wondering if our shocks would survive our first moving gig.

“Laurel Canyon Law Library”
is episode 28 of
Ball Lightning
a Novel in Progress
in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)

Turning Down

Housekeeping. The Right on Moving Company. 

Julien, upon hearing I was considering finding some part time work and moving from a weekly to a monthly room in Hotel Julien, told me he might be looking to add to his housekeeping staff now that the fleet was in. When I asked him to talk more about that, I learned his housekeeping staff consisted of two supervisors, two women, twins, who had been with him for years. They both worked seven days a week, one, called Dawn, from 7 in the morning, when the Bunkroom was to be vacated, to 7 in the evening, when the hotel would usually be full for the night, the other, named Eve, from 7 in the evening to 7 in the morning. Their staff consisted of part timers, students, mostly, or single moms from the neighborhood, looking for flexible days and hours and easygoing job sharing and scheduling with few rules or recriminations. Dawn and Eve were permanent employees, the rest of the housekeeping staff was considered temporary and paid under the table in cash. The duties and responsibilities of the housekeepers including turning down rooms, sweeping and vacuuming, working the laundry room, cleaning bathrooms, stocking supplies of sheets, blankets, pillow cases, towels and toiletries, washing windows, and cleaning up the Rooftop – washing dishes, tables, mopping floors. At the same time, Cajetan told me he had invested in some capital – he had purchased a used van and secured a job moving a personal law library from a home in Laurel Canyon to an office on Wilshire. He asked me would I help him out with his first job, about a day or two of manual labor moving books, he estimated. And he had big plans, having painted The Right On Moving Company on the sides of his van. Suddenly I was flush with job opportunities and said yes to both offers. Since I would be busy with Cajetan during the day, Eve suggested I start by helping with the Rooftop cleanups, which began around 11 in the evening and depending on the mess, might last an hour or two, Thursday through Sunday, the four nights a week the bar and grill was open. It’s an odd feeling going suddenly from unemployment to employment, of any kind. I wrote Sylvie a postcard: “Spent most of the day doing nothing, pondering the universe, with no conclusions. Start two part time jobs tomorrow. Determined to turn down the noise of the gods and pay attention to these new people in my life, and the pleasures of work.”

“Turning Down”
is episode 27 of
Ball Lightning
a Novel in Progress
in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)

Tunnel Ahead

Pluto. Underground. Lineage. Plans.

Pluto lived in the Seattle underground, the old stores abandoned below the raised street level project completed after the substantial fire of 1889. One night, after a poetry reading in Pioneer Square, Sylvie and I slipped down to visit Pluto. He was busy mapping out the Seattle Shanghai Tunnels, where the gods could get lost on vacation. Cities built upon cities give rise to strange rumors, seeping stories trying to explain what can’t be seen: the buried, the covered, the closed, the past. And the stories, like the people they depict, pile up, one sitting upon another, and their lineages when described set the characters and their plots upside down. Put no stock in the dead weight of your coat of arms. Neither be impressed nor depressed by what occupied your forebears. Your great great great grandfather may have been a prince or a pirate, a saint or an executioner, a sage or a fool; what does any of it have to do with you? A distant aunt may have been Catherine the Great or Catherine of Alexandria; so what? What system of serfdom is necessary to break the wheels that broke the backs of the ancestors eaten by cultural vultures and laughing hyenas and that continue to roll over so many? Where we come from is a matter of chance, unless there exists some Grand Plan, but there is no such plan, unless Hands Off is a plan. If where we come from is a matter of chance, so too is where we are headed. That does not mean we should forgo working to make good choices, but that we can’t fully control or even see or hear all the variables of influence, and that what looks like reward may be useless decoration. A purse is something that must be carried.

“Tunnel Ahead”
is episode 26 of
Ball Lightning
a Novel in Progress
in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)

Wheels Within Wheels

Canvassing. Jobs. Day Labor. Off the Grid.

Fearlessly knocking on doors in the nearby maritime industry, canvassing about the harbor for a part time job, I found I could not land anything. I thought I might find something washing boats, or something to do with dock and wharf maintenance, but with no connections, references, or background, even washing dishes or sweeping floors seemed out of reach. Having no access to independent transportation didn’t help. I learned from a Bunkroom guest, Cajetan, at Hotel Julian, in conversation on the rooftop one night, of stretches of sidewalk in Los Angeles where one might stand mornings in the hopes of being picked up for some temporary work need – no questions asked. One got paid under the table in cash. The jobs were usually for day laborers, but anything was possible. The stretch of sidewalk might change location though, and one had to stay in touch somehow with the informal system that fed the enterprise. According to Cajetan, living entirely off the grid was impossible. There were grids within grids, he explained, systems within systems, wheels within wheels. Every turning of one wheel turned another. Attempts to escape systems often led to spider web crisscrossing entrapments in systems themselves located off the grid. One might hide, but no one was independent.

“Wheels Within Wheels”
is episode 25 of
Ball Lightning
a Novel in Progress
in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)

Occultation

Inventory. Queen Anne house. Job. 

Had I more resources at hand, my horizon might not have looked so limited. I took inventory: 2 pairs of jeans; 2 shirts; 2 pairs of socks; 1 pair of good walking shoes; a small shaving kit with toothbrush; 2 towels; 1 notebook, 1 pen, 1 pencil; cell phone and charger; $300 cash and some change; 1 piece of identification, an expired driver’s license; 1 bank card. Also in my duffle, a space blanket, a wool lifeguard blanket, both part of an emergency kit: electric torch, matches in waterproof box, first aid kit, iodine pills, scissors, a fat pocket knife, a green glow stick, a bright orange whistle. A small box with fishing line and hooks, a plastic jar of pink salmon eggs. A plastic folding cup. I pictured my wardrobe in the house on Queen Anne – the suits, the ties, the shoes for every occasion, belts, hats, gloves, stacks of laundered shirts, drawers full of socks, a closet full of jackets, coats, vests, pullovers, sweaters, shorts, jeans, bathing suits, wetsuit. In the garage, surfboards, the Vespa, my pickup truck, the station wagon, bicycles, baseball equipment, golf clubs, fishing gear, camping tents and sleeping bags. I walked through the house: books in every room; kitchen stuffed with dishes, pantry stuffed with canned goods, boxes of pasta, bags of coffee; breadbox in the nook; fruit basket. Shelves stuffed with herbs, condiments, cookbooks, oatmeal, rice, sugar, oils, red wine vinegar, chocolates, salts and peppers. In the basement, a freezer stuffed with salmon from our recent float plane trip to Alaska, frozen jams and bags of tomatoes, sides of bacon, rib eye steaks, a couple of roasts, a turkey, chicken breasts and chicken legs, butter, cheeses, breads, bags of frozen vegetables. All around the house, chairs, couches, tables, more chairs. Beds. Closets stuffed with stuff. Bathrooms smelling of lavender and honey. Medicine chests stuffed with pills, toothpaste, blades, creams, ointments, oils. Attic smelling of musk and dust, stuffed with old furniture, mirrors, costumes, chests stuffed with knicknacks, ornaments, toys, stuffed animals, dolls, vinyl record albums warped from heat. In the entry, parlor, living room – bouquets of flowers, houseplants, cats sleeping on warm window sills. Walls covered with paintings, photographs, lithographs, wreaths of dried flowers. A grand piano, its lid closed. I came back to my room in the Hotel Julian and thought again of the possibility of finding some part time work. Time for a bit of mindfulness. Nothing like living in the moment. But I had no resume, no references, no degrees or certificates of training of any kind, no background, no past. The only information I might put on a job application was my name and temporary address. If you’ve no past, you’ve no future. What would I say in an interview? I was a god? I was Risk Manager to the gods. I spent a few minutes role playing with myself an interview scenario. A god of what? A retired god. Oh, I see. I looked through the help wanted ads. Employers were looking for specialists. I had no specialty. And I was only part human. That part of me had not existed once before, a time I did not remember, then a life – family, school, military, work, family again, then retirement, an early retirement – then again that part I cannot remember would presumably return. Then a transubstantiation back to bread and wine, only the appearance of a god remaining. Who would hire such a creature?

“Occultation”
is episode 24 of
Ball Lightning
a Novel in Progress
in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)